By Gary Thomas
What Was Achieved at
the Major Issues with Rio+20?
The party is now over in Rio. The United Nations Conference on
Sustainable Development, that is. The once in a generation opportunity
to change the future of the planet ended on Friday, after running from
20-22nd June 2012. Seen as the successor to the
1992 Earth summit held in Rio, some of the world’s most influential
figures attended-so what exactly was this all-star cast looking to
Essentially, the conference was aiming to make future
existence on this planet sustainable, so that we as a species can cope
with the phenomenal rise in population which is going to occur over the
next 50-100 years. Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, stressed
before the conference that Rio+20 was “too important to fail”. It
sounds important, doesn’t it? So, how did we get on? Has the planet
was Achieved at Rio+20?
Let us first start with the positives of this conference. A 49 page document, titled ‘The Future We
Want’, is the culmination of the conference and outlines what
has been achieved.
Certain sectors will be very happy with the contents of this
document-prominent among these will be campaigners for cleaner oceans.
They will have been relatively happy with the pledges at the
conference to create protected areas in the oceans, as well as the
promise of tighter regulations on illegal fishing. Given that since the
last Earth summit twenty years ago seafood consumption has risen by
32%, this initiative will be a welcome move towards sustainable
Sustainable development goals (SDGs) have also made progress
and a process for implementing these been outlined in the document.
There is a feeling that these can have a genuine worth if they are
backed up further after the conference, and these could be active in
the next 3 years.
The final document also acknowledges that GDP is not the only
way of measuring a countries development, and calls for more emphasis
to be put on environmental factors.
The final document also calls for more work to be done by the
private sector in relation to sustainability.
Were the Major Issues with Rio+20?
For all the good intentions behind the Rio+20 conferences,
people from all spheres are decrying the gathering as somewhat
redundant. The document, though full of laudable sentiment, made very
few specific promises or targets that lead towards a sustainable
future. For example, there are no specific figures used when discussing
reductions in emissions.
Environmental charities having been quick to voice the fact
that they do not feel enough has been done.
For example, the executive director of Greenpeace, Kumi
Naidoo, stated that "Rio+20 has turned into an epic failure. It has
failed on equity, failed on ecology, and failed on economy."
The WWF was also scathing, saying that if targets are not
improved, the conference "will have been a colossal waste of time."
Even usually diplomatic leaders could not contain their
disappointment, with Nick Clegg quoted as saying "It may not be as
ambitious as if I were able to write it myself....” and the French
President, Francois Hollande, telling those present that he would like
to have seen specific funding goals set.
|"Rio+20 has turned into an epic failure. It
has failed on equity, failed on ecology, and failed on economy..." Kumi
What was striking about this conference was how little hype or
interest there appeared to be leading into, during, or after the event.
The entire conference seemed smothered by mainstream apathy.
Considering that it was the largest UN conference ever held, and was
attended by a plethora of world leaders, the fact that it barely made
evening news bulletins is baffling in the extreme.
Perhaps the conference was the victim of bad timing in this
respect. It is not hard to believe that if the topic of the conference
had related more to the world’s financial system (or perhaps even
goal-line technology) then it would have been followed with more
attentiveness. However, for the conference leaders to hide behind poor
viewing figures would be unhelpful in the bigger picture. The UN had a
chance to make a real difference to the direction and ethical structure
of global business and didn’t.
In the future, this conference will surely be regarded as a
footnote in the battle against climate change, particularly relative to
its predecessor and parent conference in Rio twenty years ago.